Wednesday, September 30, 2015


The earliest forms of art that has been preserved are probably cave drawings, including several articles I came across saying people have found a cave drawing in Kuwait that depicts humans hunting dinosaurs. I really don’t know about all that; it certainly seems kind of hoax-ish to me. But there are other cave drawings depicting life as hunters and normal things. The royal families throughout the centuries commonly kept Islamic paintings, ceramics, and jewel-encrusted objects. Today, many of those items have been preserved in the Kuwait National Museum. 

Throughout the Arab Peninsula, Kuwait was the first country to establish an arts movement in the modern arts. Kuwait also set itself apart again by being the first country in this region to grant scholarships to students who want to study the arts. In fact, the arts scene in Kuwait before the Gulf War in 1991 was booming, and Kuwait was in many ways one of the prominent arts capitals in the Gulf region. The war really took a hard toll on the arts scene in this country with artists and others fleeing and art works and venues being destroyed. However, in recent years it has grown and a growing interest has inspired professional artists and amateurs alike to appreciate their cultural arts. They are now home to over 20 art galleries. 

by Mojeb al-Dousari
One of the most well-known artist from Kuwait is Mojeb al-Dousari. He was one of the first artists who made a name for himself as a portrait artist and introduced this type of art to the country. Not only was he a gifted artist himself, but he also developed the first art gallery in Kuwait in 1943. 

by Khalifa al-Qattan
However, it wasn’t until Khalifa al-Qattan came along that there was an exhibition in 1953 solely devoted to the works of one artist. During the 1960s al-Qattan would later continue on to develop an artistic theory he called circulism. I found a doctoral thesis by Muayad H. Hussain posted online about al-Qattan and circulism. It was 306 pages, so I didn’t read the whole thing, even though I think it’d be interesting. Essentially from what I gathered by jumping forward to the section on circulism (besides the fact that his wife was the one who suggested the name; behind every successful man is a successful woman, right?), it took little bits of certain European arts movements like surrealism and social realism and combined it with curved brush strokes and symbolism in color and shape. But yet at the same time, there are elements of traditional and Eastern art forms as well. It’s kind of complex, but I think that’s it in a nutshell.  

by Thuraya al-Baqsami
As a slightly more progressive country than others in the region, Kuwait also had a number of female artists as well. Two of the more prominent names are Thuraya al-Baqsami (who has won numerous international awards for her work) and Suzan Bushnaq (who often represents women’s life and struggles in her work). 

Al Arabi magazine

The vast majority of Kuwaiti literature is written in Arabic. Like other arts movements, Kuwait was also the leader in literature in the Gulf area. After the Al Arabi magazine was first published in the late 1950s, it quickly spread to become one of the most-read magazines in the Arab world. Al Arabi was a monthly magazine that focused on the arts, sciences, politics, culture, and economics covering the Pan-Arabic world.

There really aren’t any surviving copies of any literature from Kuwait from its earliest days. But there is also some evidence leading historians to believe that Kuwaiti authors were aware and followed English-language and French-language literature. However, it wasn’t until the 20th century when Kuwaiti authors became known on the Arab world stage. 

A few notable writers include Fatimah Yousef al-Ali (journalist, short story writer; first woman in Kuwait to publish a novel), Ismail Fahd Ismail (novelist, short story writer; one of the first authors in Kuwait to make a name for himself in the Arab world), Najma Idrees (poet, columnist), Taleb al-Refai (journalist, writer; produced an art magazine called Jaridat al-Funun), Taibah al-Ibrahim (wrote the first science fiction novel in Kuwait), Laila al-Othman (novelist, short story writer), and A.H. Almaas (author, spiritual leader). 

Kuwaiti playwright, director, and producer Sulayman al-Bassam

Theatre has also played an important role in Kuwait. It is essentially the only country in this region that has a theatre arts culture, which started in the 1920s. There are several theatre troupes throughout the country, and many have won international awards and recognitions for their work. Likewise, Kuwait is also known for their soap operas shown on TV.

Up next: music and dance

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